Columbia County Commission approves smaller budget

Tuesday, June 2, 2009 9:58 PM
Last updated 10:17 PM
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Columbia County officials adopted a $56.5 million budget Tuesday.

The tweaked budget is about $500,000 less that what initially was proposed and is lower than last year’s budget.

“That’s an extraordinary effort in these times,” Commissioner Ron Thigpen said of the county staff’s work to trim the budget. “It’s been a very, very long time since we adopted a budget less than the year before.”

Because of state budget cuts, economic uncertainty and slight expected growth in the tax digest, the new budget represents a decrease of 0.6 percent from the current fiscal plan.

To help stave off expenses, county officials streamlined and merged many county departments and initiated a hiring freeze earlier this year. Through attrition and department reorganization, officials trimmed 30 positions, which produced a more than $800,000 in savings.

At Mr. Thigpen’s suggestion, officials also took $500,000 out of the budget’s proposed contingency fund to reduce the general fund even more.

Money exists in the 2009-10 budget to hire just 10 new employees – a school crossing guard for the sheriff’s office, two employees for the Water Utility division, four to man the 911 center and three for the Clerk of Court’s office.

Though a new state law will require that four dispatchers for Martinez-Columbia Fire Rescue become county employees, their salaries will be paid using the separate 911 budget.

In another cost-saving measure, officials are limiting merit raises to no more than 2 percent. Initially, officials had proposed 4 percent raises.


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